IoT use cases: from industry to home automation

7 min

The sound of the alarm clock in the morning is undoubtedly among the most annoying sounds we cannot do without. But there is a way to make it less traumatic: start the coffee machine remotely by clicking on a simple phone app. In the five minutes it takes to wake up sweetly, we will be enveloped by the aroma of coffee waiting for us in the kitchen. Communicating with objects remotely is now possible thanks to Internet of Things technologies and its uses can be varied, involving sectors and activities in the private and professional world. In this article, we will explore some of the most innovative use cases of the IoT. First, however, we will look at what business requirements to pay attention to in order to get the most out of IoT devices.

What are the key elements for implementing IoT in the enterprise?

To prepare your company for IoT adoption, before calibrating the network, choosing the infrastructure, and making machines and devices smart, we need to ask ourselves questions. Do I want to connect moving or fixed devices? If we are talking about fixed assets, such as a temperature sensor in a warehouse, the connectivity needs will be different from moving assets, such as a tracking device on a truck in transit. This distinction will help me assess the bandwidth required, the network coverage and what the level of reliability should be because sending large volumes of data requires faster and more robust networks.

Another question concerns the immediacy of the data: do I need real-time information, or will the data be processed later? If we need real-time values, we should rely on a robust and scalable infrastructure, use devices capable of collecting and transmitting data as soon as it is produced, and an instant messaging system. From this point of view, the choice between storing data in the cloud or managing data on-premise through an Edge Computing infrastructure will also be subject to evaluation.

It is another matter if processing takes place at a later stage. Managing data offline is often a cheaper and less complex solution than real-time processing. It entails, however, a latency between data collection and the availability of processed results. This waiting time may not be acceptable in critical applications where decisions have to be made quickly based on incoming data.

These considerations also serve to adequately configure the cybersecurity system. Indeed, remote management requires robust security systems to protect information but above all to ensure business continuity.

IoT use cases

IoT use cases in the industry

Let’s now turn to the evaluation of use cases, i.e. the contexts in which the IoT expresses its full potential. Industry is one of the main places where the need to connect devices has arisen. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is, in fact, the protagonist of Industry 4.0 today as it makes predictive maintenance, factory automation and product tracking possible.

By connecting devices and allowing machinery to interact with each other, with little or no human intervention, a previously unimaginable level of efficiency has been achieved. Through IoT devices, several variables of the production process can be monitored in the factory in real-time. For example, we can detect temperatures, production speed and energy consumption. This approach results in the rapid identification of production anomalies and inefficiencies.

The data collected by the connected devices, if properly processed, will be transformed into useful information. This will optimize operations, reduce waste and improve the quality of the end product. For example, by monitoring plants in real-time, we could accurately plan predictive maintenance, reducing downtime and extending the life of machines.

IoT connectivity has also given impetus to the spread of other technologies, such as automation. Making devices able to interact with each other means enabling them to make autonomous decisions based on collected data without human intervention. Where process automation has been pushed, a significant reduction in errors and imperfections has been seen.

Another process that has been significantly improved through IoT is the supply chain. Thanks to IoT, it is possible to track the location and status of products throughout the supply chain in real-time. A concrete example is the use of sensors and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) on containers and pallets, allowing companies to monitor the location, temperature, humidity, and other important conditions to be detected in products in transit. The process would thus become more transparent, efficient, and resilient.

No less important is the use of IoT for workplace safety devices. Wearing smart helmets on construction sites, equipped with sensors and cameras that continuously monitor the surroundings, will enable the detection of obstacles, people, or dangerous situations, such as moving machinery or the presence of harmful gases.

This enhancement is making industries and production environments extremely flexible and adaptable to market changes and transformations in a short time. By processing data, making processes transparent and traceable, and ensuring real-time control and monitoring, we will achieve unprecedented efficiency and the ability to customize processes and activities to specific production peculiarities.

IoT use cases in healthcare

If the factory offers many possibilities for the application of IoT devices, no less important is the role they play in healthcare. The beneficiaries of these technologies will be patients, first and foremost, doctors and managers of healthcare facilities. We have dedicated a specific article to this topic, but it is worth revisiting it for the value it brings to our society.

Let us start with what appear to be the most tangible benefits, namely the continuous monitoring of patients. Through wearable devices, such as smartwatches or chest straps, we can constantly track patients’ vital parameters. Such data would allow doctors to receive early alerts in case of abnormalities. This is a fundamental step forward in-home care for patients with chronic diseases. For example, a patient with a heart condition could wear a monitor that sends data to his or her cardiologist in real-time, allowing rapid intervention if needed.

The support that IoT technologies offer doctors is no less. Being able to collect and analyze data on a large scale through the IoT is proving to be an indispensable support for the research and development of new cures and treatments, accelerating the understanding of diseases and the creation of targeted therapies. We are, in fact, witnessing a change in healthcare that is becoming increasingly proactive and personalized.

The connection also allows AI to be associated with the robots used in operating rooms, offering support to surgeons in terms of the precision of operations. One example is the use of micro-cameras and sensors during minimally invasive operations. Sending real-time images and information to surgeons would allow them to operate with greater accuracy and timeliness. In addition, IoT devices in surgery allow doctors to monitor various patient parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation in real-time. This ensures a constantly updated clinical picture during surgery.

Finally, real-time data monitoring is also optimizing the management of healthcare resources. The introduction of IoT devices in medical beds and equipment has enabled the tracking of resources and optimizing the distribution of staff and equipment. In this way, patients will receive care at the exact time they need it. In summary, IoT transforms healthcare into a more responsive, proactive, and patient-centered system, improving efficiency and quality of care.

Connected devices provide data and allow us to manage it remotely. The use cases are many, but first we need to understand how to design the infrastructure in which we will place them. Click To Tweet

IoT use cases in the urban context

The urban context is another place where IoT technologies can improve many aspects, enabling the emergence of Smart Cities. However, we do not necessarily have to report virtuous examples that are not easily replicable. We do not need to because connected devices are able to generate benefits even in chaotic and non ‘smart’ cities, making them more efficient, sustainable, and liveable.

For example, through connected sensors located at various points in the city, air and noise pollution levels, traffic, and weather conditions can be monitored, allowing city authorities to intervene with targeted measures in real-time, such as modulating traffic flow or activating irrigation systems.

IoT devices also help in waste management, with smart bins that signal when they are full, optimizing collection routes and reducing CO2 emissions. In addition, IoT-based public lighting can adapt to environmental conditions, such as switching on automatically as night falls or as people and vehicles pass by, reducing energy consumption.

Home delivery, on the other hand, is a service that is on its way but not yet adequately deployed. Yet the technologies to do so are already there. Drones or automated vehicles equipped with GPS tracking and capable of carrying parcels are already widely used in factories and have greatly improved industrial logistics but, of course, allowing them to move around city streets is a tad more complex to manage. Yet, this would make the delivery service much more efficient and environmentally sustainable.

It is clear from these examples that the use of IoT technologies in metropolitan areas could generate a faster and more informed response to urban, ecological and social needs, promoting a more harmonious and sustainable urban environment.

IoT use cases in the home: home automation

From manufacturing and healthcare contexts, we have moved on to cities and then into domestic places. If there are so many connected devices today, it is precisely because these technologies improve all the contexts in which they are implemented.

With IoT, homes can be transformed into safe, efficient, and remotely manageable environments. What does this mean? That if an intruder enters the home, we receive a real-time alert, and at the same time, if provided for in the imports, a notification will also alert the police. This is a security-related use case, but we can also reduce consumption through intelligent energy management. By optimizing consumption with IoT devices that learn from our habits, we can ensure that radiators turn on before we get home from the office and turn off when no one is home. Such automation guarantees considerable energy savings.

No less important is the connection of household appliances: fridges that signal the need for refilling or when food is due, washing machines that start during off-peak hours or ovens that pre-heat while you are still in the office. These aspects are making everyday life more convenient and intuitive.

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